CVIndependent

Fri09202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What: The al pastor taco

Where: Taqueria Tortilla Factory, 35270 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $2.99

Contact: 760-324-6505; taqueria-tortilla-factory.business.site

Why: It outshined the main course.

Sometimes, the supporting player outshines the star.

Such was the case during a recent lunch I enjoyed at Taqueria Tortilla Factory, located in a busy little strip mall in Cathedral City. I was trying to get over that terrible cold that’s been going around, and I was craving soup—specifically, that fabled cold remedy known as menudo.

I understand that menudo isn’t for everyone—the main ingredient is tripe, aka cow’s stomach—but when it’s done right, I think it’s delicious. I’d never had the menudo at Taqueria Tortilla Factory, and I’d heard good things, so I decided to give it a shot. I ordered it at the counter—and decided to add on an al pastor taco, because, well, tacos are delicious.

The verdict: The menudo was pretty darned good. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had—while the tripe, hominy and other ingredients were perfect, the broth could have been more flavorful—but it was enjoyable, and it was a welcome salve for my sniffles. After downing most of the bowl, I turned my attention to the taco.

Wow.

It was fantastic. The pork meat was delicious and just a little crispy—as good al pastor should be. Some might balk at the $2.99 price; while you can get cheaper tacos in town, those tacos likely won’t come with this amount of meat.

In addition to making its own fantastic tortillas (as the name makes obvious), Taqueria Tortilla Factory cooks up a wide variety of delicious food, from breakfasts to seafood plates to all the Mexican-restaurant standards one would expect. I am not sure what I’ll order on my next visit … but I am sure that I’ll add on an al pastor taco.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The huevos rancheros

Where: Tacos Gonzalez, 80120 Highway 111, Indio

How much: $9.99

Contact: 760-347-6858

Why: It’s delicious, meticulous simplicity.

It shouldn’t be difficult to make great yet simple food … but it most definitely is.

For example, consider the amazing huevos rancheros at Tacos Gonzalez, a popular hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint in Indio. There is nothing fancy or complicated about the dish: It consists of eggs, and tortillas, and sauce, and salsa, with beans, rice, lettuce and guacamole surrounding it.

Simple ingredients all, correct? Well, this leads to a question: If all of this is so simple, why don’t all restaurants serve such splendid huevos rancheros?

The answer: Not all cooks pay attention to the details like they do at Tacos Gonzalez.

The tortillas were tasty and well-prepared. The eggs were a perfect over-medium—just as I ordered them. The ranchero sauce was delicious with just a hint of spiciness. The salsa fresca was fresh and vibrant. All of the accompaniments were spot-on—especially the guacamole, which made me regret not ordering more as an appetizer.

If just one of these ingredients had been amiss—if, say, the eggs were overcooked, or the ranchero sauce was bland—the dish would have fallen into mediocrity. But the people in Taco Gonzalez’s kitchen made sure that did not happen. As a result, the huevos rancheros were fantastic.

This attention to detail was also apparent in the street tacos ($1.89 to $2.29 each) my husband ordered. He got six tacos, each with a different meat, and there was not a bad taco in the bunch. I liked the chicken best, while Garrett’s favorite was the carnitas.

The aforementioned meal was our first at Tacos Gonzalez—and it most certainly won’t be our last. All cooks—from restaurants at every price level—could learn a thing or two from the attention to detail on display at Tacos Gonzalez.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Chorizo Taco

Where: Tacos El Poblano, 68100 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

How much: $1.49; $1 on Tuesday and Thursday

Contact: 760-534-0446; www.facebook.com/tacoscemitaselpoblano

Why: It’s a few bites of deliciousness.

It was the noon hour. I was hungry, so I headed to a restaurant I’d heard good things about, located in the shopping center at the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Landau Boulevard.

I went to the door, saw an “open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. sign,” pulled the handle … and the door was locked. For some unannounced and undisclosed reason, the restaurant was closed, no matter what that sign said.

As I drove through the shopping center to make my departure, I passed by Tacos El Poblano—and spotted a sign touting $1 tacos on Tuesday and Thursday. It just so happened to be a Tuesday.

Dollar tacos? Yes, please.

I walked in, ordered four tacos—one each with chicken, pastor, steak and chorizo— at the window, got the tacos, paid for them, got some salsa from the salsa bar, and sat down.

I wish I could tell you that all of the tacos knocked my figurative socks off … but that was not the case. Frankly, three of the four tacos were merely OK: The chicken, pastor and asada tacos were decent, but not as flavorful as tacos I’ve had at other places. I can’t say I’d order any of them again, despite the thrifty $1 price tag.

However, the chorizo taco was delicious—and not too oily, which can be a problem with some versions. With a squeeze of lime and just a hint of the house medium salsa, the taco was pretty damn near perfect.

I would order that chorizo taco again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably order about six of them.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Queso Bonita Tacos

Where: La Bonita’s, 330 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $12.99

Contact: 760-318-8883; www.labonitas.com

Why: Crispy cheese is an amazing thing.

Ah, the taco. It’s the perfect food—delicious, potentially nutritious, easy to make and effortless to eat. Plus, it singlehandedly elevated the status of Tuesday, formerly the most boring day of the week.

It’s not easy to improve on supposed perfection—yet that’s exactly what the good folks at downtown Palm Springs Mexican joint La Bonita’s have done to the taco.

The queso Bonita tacos have all of the good stuff one would expect in a taco—fantastic carne asada or chicken, plus salsa, onion and cilantro, all placed on a fresh tortilla. Then comes the unexpected: The tortilla is coated with crispy, melted-and-then-cooked-on cheese.

Oh. My. God. The sharp flavor of the cheese adds a whole ’nother flavor level to the tacos. There’s nothing particularly special about the accompanying beans, rice and salad—but these tacos are special enough, thank you very much.

The queso Bonita tacos are just one of the much-raved-about dishes this year-old Mexican restaurant offers in the weirdly narrow Palm Canyon Drive space that previously housed several short-lived Asian joints. Friends of mine have spoken highly about the chimichangas and the burrito bowls, for example, and one of my dining companions would not stop talking about the California burrito ($11.99), which contains either carne asada or chicken, the usual burrito fillings and … French fries. Yes, inside the burrito.

If you’re reading this shortly after its posting, and these words have made you hungry, I have some bad news: The restaurant, like too many others around town, is currently in the midst of an August closure. (“Small remodel,” explains the La Bonita Facebook page.) Expect La Bonita to reopen on Aug. 27.

There is a lot of fine Mexican food in Palm Springs (as well as some not-so-fine Mexican food). And that queso Bonita taco plate is among the finest.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Tacos Al Pastor

Where: Jalisco Restaurant, 1605 Sixth St., Coachella

How much: $1.55; three-taco combo plate $7.25

Contact: (760) 398-7113

Why: It’s simply a perfect taco.

Being a West Valley resident, I don’t get a lot of chances to dine in Coachella. However, a recent business meeting afforded me the chance to have lunch in downtown Coachella—and considering the tacos I had at Jalisco Restaurant, I am now bemoaning my lack of East Valley dining opportunities.

I knew I wanted tacos, but wasn’t sure which tacos to try, so I got the three-taco combo plate—a steal at just $7.25. I had a lot of potential choices—Jalisco has about 14 tacos on offer, with options both locally common (pollo, carne asada) and not so common (beef brains!)—but I kept it simple and got one each with pollo, carne asada and al pastor.

On the English portion of Jalisco’s menu, al pastor is described as “marinated pork.” Yes, that’s accurate, but al pastor (literally translated: shepherd style) is so much more than that: The pork is usually slow-cooked on a rotisserie, much like shawarma and gyros meat is cooked. (In fact, it’s believed that pork prepared al pastor got its start in Mexico thanks to influences from Lebanese immigrants there.)

The pollo and carne asada tacos were both quite tasty. However, the al pastor was beyond fantastic: The meat was somehow both crispy and juicy—and, boy, was it packed with flavor.

It was sooooo good that I find myself trying to think of excuses to have more business meetings in Coachella. If you’re an East Valley resident, and you’re not enjoying the tacos el pastor at Jalisco Restaurant on at least a semi-regular basis, either you must be a vegetarian … or something must be wrong with you.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Street Taco Platter

Where: Loco Charlie’s, 1751 N. Sunrise Way, No. F5, Palm Springs

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-832-6474; mylococharlies.com

Why: The crispy parts.

It was lunchtime, and I was craving some good tacos.

This is not an unusual occurrence in my life. In fact, there are few lunchtimes when I am not, to some degree, craving tacos. However, on this particular day, I was really craving tacos—so off to Loco Charlie’s we went. I had never been before, but several readers have recommended the restaurant to me—and we all know that Coachella Valley Independent readers are a smart bunch, yes? (Here’s a hint: If you’re reading this, you’re an Independent reader.)

Let’s just say that the readers didn’t let me down—and my taco craving was more than satisfied.

Loco Charlie’s—located in a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Sunrise Drive and Vista Chino Road—offers four types of meat in its tacos: Carne asada (beef!), carnitas (pork!), pollo asado (chicken!) and lengua (beef tongue!). Turns out the Street Taco Platter includes four tacos, and you can mix and match the meats.

I’ll take a Street Taco Platter with one of each, please.

The chicken and lengua tacos were just fine. (By the way, if the thought of eating tongue makes you squeamish, you really should get over that. It’s good, tender stuff.) However, the carne asada and carnitas tacos were revelatory, because the meat was so delicious—due, in part, to the fact that the taco-preppers in the kitchen included both softer and crispy pieces of meat in each taco.

I feel I should include an endorsement within an endorsement for the price: Four tacos plus sides for $7.95 is a fine deal. It’s such a fine deal that I may just go back tomorrow for some more street tacos … because the more I think about those tasty tacos, the less my craving is feeling satisfied.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Dear Mexican: I live in New York, where taco trucks are a fairly recent addition to the urban landscape. I’ve noticed they always serve their tacos with double tortillas. Why?

I’m a long-time lover of Mexican food (the REAL stuff), and own several Mexican cookbooks, but the recipes never call for this. Also, what is the “right” way to eat a double-tortilla taco? I generally split the filling between the two tortillas, since there is so much of it, but I have no idea whether I’m making a fool out of myself.

Gourmet Gringa

Dear Gabacha: “Actually, double tortillas are common in Mexico!” says Lesley Téllez, author of the awesome nuevo book Eat Mexico: Recipes From Mexico City’s Streets, Markets and Fondas, and a Puebla York resident herself. “Lots of Mexico City street vendors serve their tacos on two tortillas, or they’ll ask if clients want one or two, in case they’re watching their waistlines. (Heh.) Particularly with a liquidy filling like a guisado, the first tortilla breaks. So the second tortilla serves as back up. How you eat your taco is up to you, so load it with two salsas, divide it in half—como quieras.”

Good job, Lesley! The Mexican will only add that you shouldn’t add peas to your tacos … HA!

Here’s a spicy tamale for you. My question: Why do Mexicans tear each other down? Why do they hate to see another Mexican doing better than themselves? They see a fellow Mexican climbing to the top, and rather than cheer him or her on, they throw stones, grab at their ankles and drag them back down.

Yes, I’m a Mexican (and a proud Mexican) with an education. I have a strong work ethic, and I worked hard to get what I have, yet I feel despised by fellow Mexicans who think I think I’m better than them. One of my former Mexican supervisors didn’t like it because I could communicate and articulate with gabacho supervisors on their level. He verbally berated me and called me a suck-ass in front of a group of employees. It could have been a nice EEO complaint, but I just said “Adiós, and besa mi culo,” and walked out. Even the local drunks in my barrio look at me dirty because “I don’t talk to them.” Is it because they would rather see me drunk and belligerent with them all day behind the local icehouse?

I have no tolerance for stupidity, be it from someone who is black, white, Mexican or otherwise. I sell aluminum cans to supplement my income, so no: I don’t think that I’m better, especially when I’m diggin’ in trash for a few cans. Remember the movie La Bamba? Esai Morales played the character of Ritchie’s brother who could not be happy for his brother’s success.

OK, Mexican, thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I wait in earnest for the wisdom of your response.

Just Another Mexican

Dear Pocho: You know who hates Mexicans more than Donald Trump? Mexicans. I wish there was a punchline for this, but there ain’t. Crabs in a bucket, cabrones: cangrejos en una cubeta.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican